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New Richmond Council Members Usher In Historic Female Representation

Composite image with Jordan and Lambert
Katherine Jordan (left) and Ann-Frances Lambert (right) will become the two newest City Council members tonight, bringing female representation on the council to 7 of 9 districts. (Photos courtesy of campaigns)

Tonight, the two newest members of Richmond City Council are being sworn in. 

Ann-Frances Lambert will replace outgoing City Council Vice President Chris Hilbert, representing the 3rd district in Northside. Katherine Jordan will represent the 2nd District, which encompasses much of the Fan, Jackson Ward and Scott’s Addition neighborhoods. Both Lambert and Jordan will hold elected office for the first time.

VPM’s Roberto Roldan recently sat down with both incoming council members to ask them about their priorities for the next four years, and the immediate challenges they can expect to face: 

Roldan: You both are entering public office at a time when Richmond, the country and really the whole world is in crisis. As the city tries to nail down a budget in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis, what are your priorities going to be?

Lambert: Well for me, my first hundred days in office I'm going to be doing a listening tour, giving my residents and business owners, those in my district, an opportunity to voice their concerns, so that I can start and really be able to make some sound decisions on what the need really is for my district. I know we're going to be facing a lot with evictions, but the top priority, as I have been saying throughout the whole campaign, is this pandemic.

Jordan: As Ann-Frances said, we're in a crisis. So it's going to be all hands on deck for constituent services, connecting people to city, state, federal resources. Our businesses, they're trying desperately to stay open. People are trying to stay in their homes, families trying to navigate at-home learning. It's really gonna be being in the trenches with our constituents, helping them navigate this really incredible time. 

Roldan: This I think was probably a pretty interesting and challenging year to be out campaigning, especially in Richmond, you were trying to reach out to voters with the backdrop of nightly protests against police violence and racism. How did that affect the things that you were talking about on the campaign trail and how might that affect your priorities moving forward? 

Jordan: So I live two blocks from Lee Circle and certainly that conversation really dominated the campaign trail. I think more than other years, you had different demographics following the City Council-level races more than they had in the past, because they saw this was an area that they could have influence over some of the institutions that they were out protesting against. They were following the RPD budget, they were following the school budget. So for me, it was a much more robust conversation with people who wouldn't necessarily have been following the City Council race, which was great.

Lambert: For me, I was involved with a lot of the protests being a resident of here for my whole life. Growing up here, it's always been a Black and white issue. Racism has always been at the forefront of discussion and issues here in the city. And so this year, with the protest going on, it really changed the dynamic. So as I was out there protesting, I actually was on the cover of the Washington Post as a protester. And when they brought down the Stonewall Jackson monument and I was out there for business, I'm flying my drone, capturing history. This is just an 

unprecedented time that we're in. Being out there was really a motivating factor for me to run and being a Black woman from Northside running, there was no one else. My opponents, they weren't born and raised in the Northside area. So it meant more for me to win, and really get out there and let folks know that I can make a difference.

Roldan: Mrs. Lambert, you ran on supporting a downtown infrastructure project and development in the Third District. As you know, Northside's housing market is pretty hot right now. And there's also a lot of new businesses popping up along Brookland Park Boulevard. And I'm wondering, how do you plan to balance that need for investment with the dangers of displacement for long-time residents?

Lambert: I'm in Northside, and that's why I'm opening the conversation up. I have a lot of business owners, a lot of influential people in the neighborhoods that are setting up meetings, actually talking to me and telling me their solutions to the problems that are in the area. Just yesterday, I was out on Brookland Park Boulevard talking to a couple of business owners. They're investing money into their properties, but you also have some drug deals going on right across the street. How can we really have the conversation and talk about, ‘Okay, how can we help those that are across the street?’ Because everyone is trying to survive. So those are the conversations that we're having. And I see more and more people are open to having the conversation and offering solutions to these problems we have

Roldan: And Ms. Jordan. You're stepping into an office that was previously held by Councilwoman Kim Gray, who is a pretty big personality on City Council. How are you planning to fill those shoes, and what kind of different policy and perspective do you think that you're going to bring to the job? 

Jordan: People can expect me to continue the constituent services. I know Kim and Craig had been very accessible, by phone, by email and people saw her a lot in the community. So, 100%, that's something I will be doing. I know she had a big part and was really focused on the cold weather shelter, which we still have not figured out in the city, so I will absolutely be continuing that. And then there are things that'll be new that I'll bring that are more focuses that I had based on my professional academic experience that resonated with voters this term. So that would be sustainability, making sure that the plans the city has put together are enacted with continued citizen engagement so that we have buy-in and they actually get built out.

Roldan: I feel like we have to note that after you two are sworn in, this is going to be a history making City Council cohort. Seven of the nine City Council members will be women. What do you think that says about where Richmond voters are at? And do you think there are advantages to having so many female lawmakers on City Council?

Lambert: It was definitely a historic moment. I can always say women, we can get the job done. So I think it's going to be interesting in how we get along, but that's one of my main things is, you know, I want to engage with my colleagues. I want to work with my colleagues. That means I have to talk to my colleagues and the last council just didn't demonstrate cohesion. So I feel as though Katherine and I, we both have that energy of going in like, okay, we're going to at least do the right thing and be the best representatives we can for our districts. And so we kind of vibed on the campaign trail. And so I said to myself, you know what, she's cool. I definitely can't wait to work with someone like that and has that type of energy. So 

Jordan: Thank you, Ann-Frances. It is historic, but you know what [Roberto]? Check back in and we have nine out of nine!

Editor's Note: This story had a typo, which has been corrected, and we made clear that Katherine Jordan was speaking to Roberto Roldan at the end of the transcript.